This story begins over half a century ago. When I was growing up in Ticonderoga I was one of the altar boys at St. Marys Church. One of the senior altar boys at that time was a lad by the name of Ted Pozzouli. Ted had an older sister by the name of Yolanda. She went off to college while I was still in High School.
When I entered the seminary to study for the priesthood I received a letter from Yolanda who was preparing to enter the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare one of the strictest Orders of Women in the Catholic Church. She asked my prayers and assured me of hers on my behalf.
Every year at Christmas for over 50 years I have received a card and letter from Sister Mary Agnes, as she is now known. I, in turn, mailed her my yearly newsletter which told of my adventures all over the world. She wanted me to come for her Silver Jubilee but I was unable to. Her convent was then located in Newport News, Va. In 1987, while stationed in Korea as the Division Chaplain, I was summoned to Norfolk for a meeting of Senior Chaplains in the Army. Knowing I would be close to Newport News I wrote the Mother Abbess and asked if I might be able to celebrate Mass for the Sisters. Weeks of preparation went into the planning of the Mass all without Sister Mary Agnes knowledge.
The day finally came and I appeared at the altar in special vestments created for the Mass. As I approached the altar the tabernacle descended allowing me to look into the cloister. The sisters were arranged in a U formation and all of them were turned and looking at this one nun kneeling in prayer in the corner of the U. I began the Mass by saying, Sister Mary Agnes, I am Father Barry Lonergan and I have come from the Land of the Morning Calm to offer this Mass for you. She screamed! The surprise was complete.